By Doug Donelan
The New Zealand Hop harvest commenced this season with the traditional northern types of Fuggle and Styrian Golding arriving into store in the second week of February. Early New Zealand varieties such as Pacifica and Motueka commenced soon after with all picking operations in full swing by the start of March and concluding with the final bales of the later varieties Rakau and Green bullet weighed across into cold storage by early April. During the growing season the spring was unseasonably cold, especially the overnight temperatures, which held the plants back considerably and slowed development until well into November. The region’s famous summer finally arrived with the New Year and it persisted solidly throughout, right up till and into April. It brought with it long sunny days with plenty of heat units all interspersed with good levels of warm coastal rain.
By the time harvest arrived most of the districts plants had developed into what appeared to be an above average crop but one that finished only slightly ahead of grower production estimates. The weather conditions during harvest were for the most part ideal, although some severe northerly winds and torrential rains did occur mid-point as part of the aftermath of category 5 tropical cyclone Pam which did impact harvesting in some gardens.
Main Harvest Points:
- Farm structure for the 2015 harvest remained at 17 grower / shareholders (including a joint venture) all supplying hops through the cooperatively owned company of New Zealand Hops Limited.
- Cultivation continues to be dominated by designated aroma/flavour varieties at 328 Hectares while Alpha designated production continued to fall to 60 Hectares. An overall total of 389 Hectares was harvested which is an increase of 19 hectares from the 2014 harvest (370 Ha)
- Total volume harvested was 739,620 kilograms (Table # 1) which is a decrease of 24, 949 kilograms on the 2014 harvest (764,569 kg). Aroma / flavour designated hops accounted for 605,668 kilograms with alpha designated varieties at 133,952 kilograms.
- The average alpha acid was 9.5 % with the highest commercial variety being Waimea at 15 .5 % and the lowest being Wai-iti at 3.1 %.
- Selections and grade standard assessments scored well above the average with growers delivering hops of an exceptional standard…5,948 bales were received into the New Zealand Hops Limited new cold storage facility on Blackbyre Road Appleby.
- A highlight once again of harvest was the industry’s green hop programme operated under an expanded model this year which saw NZ Cascade, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin distributed to 35 brewers throughout the main centres and supporting several green hop beer events and seasonal releases.
- The 2015 crop was approximately 95 % sold prior to harvest with a post harvest view that the total crop will be sold prior to the 2016 harvest.
- Spot availability continues to be limited under the current market demand for New Zealand Hops and specialty hops in general internationally.
- As has been stated in previous reports acreage will continue to expand against a landscape of sustainable pricing and forward contracts, however as the total international market continues to grow it is unlikely that the New Zealand Industry will advance past its current world crop contribution of less than 1.0 %
- Currently a continued programme on farm of switching out of varieties is seeing modest increases in acreages while volumes remain reasonably static. A point will occur when the variety balance will be met and then both acreage and volume will commence to track upward together.
- Research and development will continue to be a major focus of the industry through our research partnership with New Zealand Plant and Food Research. Plant breeding remains at the forefront of the programme and several new selections were identified as “of interest” during this season.
- A pilot brewing plant was also commissioned during the season and several of the new selections have been earmarked for pilot brewing trials through our own system as well as some larger scale trials through commercial partners.
- Identification of hops with unique flavour profiles and brewing characteristics for commercialisation run at the heart of the programme however agronomics such as yield and in particular establishing a broader future picking window are key to our future varietal selections.
|New Zealand Varieties||Quantity||Northern Varieties||Quantity|
|Pacifica||33,000||Total Northern Varieties||39,050|
|Southern Cross||22,400||Organic Varieties||Quantity|
|Brewing Trials||1,700||Pacific Gem||2,700|
|Total NZ Varieties||679,970|
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